Ministers are coming under growing pressure to remove tax incentives for diesel cars and offer compensation to motorists so they can swap to more environmentally friendly vehicles
A group of medical professionals, environmental campaigners and lawyers has written to the chancellor ahead of the budget to demand a change to the vehicle excise duty that they say subsidises diesel cars.
Separately, senior Labour and Tory politicians have called for a comprehensive vehicle scrappage scheme to help people with diesel cars change to greener alternatives.
The letter from campaigners, including the British Lung Foundation, Greenpeace and doctors’ groups, says toxic air poses a daily risk to people’s health – particularly the young and those suffering from lung problems.
“Air pollution has … been shown to stunt children’s lung growth, which could leave them with health problems in later life,” it states. “We all deserve to breathe clean air.”
On Saturday the Guardian revealed that thousands of children and young people at more than 800 nurseries, schools and colleges in London faced dangerous and illegal levels of toxic air, much of it from diesel cars.
The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, indicated the government may bow to pressure, saying motorists should be wary of buying diesel cars, adding: “We’re going to have to really migrate our car fleet, and our vehicle fleet more generally, to cleaner technology.” However, he said that diesel “was not going to disappear”.
Air pollution causes 40,000 early deaths in the UK and costs the country £27.5bn a year, according to a government estimate. MPs have called it a public health emergency.
The letter adds:
“We know diesel vehicles, in particular diesel cars, are a major source of pollution in towns and cities … yet vehicle excise duty (VED) not only fails to recognise this, but is still incentivising them. We are therefore asking for a revision of the VED first-year rate in your upcoming budget statement.”
Read more: Edie.net